Hasegawa 1/32 P-40M Kittyhawk III

KIT #: 08199
PRICE: $75.00 SRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


      The P‑40M was similar to the preceding P‑40K series, with the primary visual difference being a cooling inlet on each side of the nose ahead of the exhaust stacks, and a radio antenna mast.  Like the late‑series P‑40K, it was powered by an Allison V‑1710‑81 engine.  The 600 P‑40Ms produced were almost all destined for Lend‑Lease, and the airplane was known in the RAF and the Commonwealth Air Forces with whom it served as the Kittyhawk III.

The RNZAF and the P-40M/Kittyhawk III.

      The RNZAF had its first contact with the Curtiss P‑40 when 80 P‑40E‑1 "Kittyhawk Is" were delivered in April and May 1942.  Number 14, 15, and 16 Squadrons were formed on the Kittyhawks and undertook training through the rest of the year. In early 1943, the New Zealanders received U.S. P-40M Warhawks.  These American aircraft, painted in Olive Drab and neutral Grey and still equipped with U.S. seatbelts, were known unofficially to the RNZAF as “Kittyhawk III”, though pilots called them P-40s.  Shortly after equipping with these new P-40s, the aircraft and their pilots were sent to Vanuatu in the New Hebrides, where the aircraft were reassembled and flown on to Espiritu Santos the main allied base in the South Pacific.

          15 Squadron was the first to enter combat on Guadalcanal, arriving at Kukum Field (Fighter II) on April 8, 1943, the day after the last great Japanese raid on the island, in which over 40 Japanese aircraft had been shot down by the Navy and Marine defenders.  15 Squadron undertook escorts of RNZAF Venturas on reconnaissance flights in the Solomons, and scored their first success on May 6, when the squadron commander shot down an A6M‑2N during a rainstorm.

          14 Squadron arrived at Kukum on June 10, and 15 Squadron returned to Espiritu Santos shortly thereafter, having claimed an additional three Zeroes shot down near the Russell Islands on June 7.  14 Squadron’s tour lasted until July 24, with 16 Squadron arriving on the 20th and taking over operations on July 25 when 14 Squadron rotated to the rear.  By chance, 14 Squadron’s tour of duty had coincided with a major aerial challenge by the Japanese as the Allies prepared to invade New Georgia, providing the pilots of the squadron with the opportunity to establish themselves as the leading scorers in the P-40 with the RNZAF.

          Among the pilots of 16 Squadron was Lyn William Williams, 27, a sheep farmer from an established old colonial family in the province of Taranaki, New Zealand who had been in the country since arriving in 1841 from Wales. He had inherited the family farm shortly before the outbreak of was in 1939, and through the “essential industries” clause could have avoided service since supplying food to Britain was seen as vital at the time. However, both Lyn and his younger brother Reeve became pilots, with Reeve going to the Fleet Air Arm after elementary flying training in New Zealand, where he eventually became a German POW. Lyn Williams was by all accounts a friendly, athletic guy who excelled at tennis and snow skiing.

          On July 31, 1943, almost a week after their arrival on operations, 16 Squadron RNZAF took off from Kukum Field to patrol the Munda area, including New Georgia Island.  So far, the squadron had not had many run-ins with the enemy, outside of some small interception flights from fields on the islands bordering “The Slot” as the P-40s escorted Kiwi Venturas and American Dauntlesses and Avengers striking Munda. Among the pilots on the flight was Flight Sergeant Lyn Williams in P-40M/Kittyhawk III NZ3076.  The weather was cloudy with building cumulus over the ocean.  F/Sgt Williams and his wingman F/Sgt Sam Sharpe broke through the cloud cover at 20,000 feet and spotted another section of P40’s under attack by Zeros. Williams led the two in to assist and they were in turn attacked by a larger formation of Zeros with a large altitude advantage, which fell on top of them from out of the sun. The two Kiwi pilots were immediately fighting for their lives.

           Almost instantly, Sam Sharpe’s P40 was hit by canon shells, which stopped his motor dead; he dived away through cloud, bailed out and was rescued by a US PT boat off Rendova within minutes. He saw Williams above, involved in a fierce dogfight with several Zeros; in the confusion details were sketchy. Some said they had seen a parachute, others said NZ3076 was on fire and losing height. In any case there was no radio contact from Williams and no sign of him was forthcoming. A few days later he was declared MIA presumed killed, 5 NM NE of Munda airfield, which was at that time under Japanese control.  When US Marines took the airfield a week later, there were no remains of any New Zealand P-40 found on the island.  It is most likely that Flight Sergeant Lyn Williams crashed into the waters then known as “The Slot,” a graveyard for many pilots. He is still officially carried as MIA presumed killed, like many other Allied pilots who fought and died in the Solomons.

          The RNZAF P40 squadrons acquitted themselves well in the Solomons campaign, being credited with 99 confirmed and 13 probable kills, for the loss of only 20 aircraft.  U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircrew in Dauntlesses and Avengers welcomed the close escort provided by the New Zealanders, who were proud of the fact they never lost an aircraft they were assigned to cover. 

          The engagement in which Williams was lost is mentioned in several books: “Kittyhawks and Coconuts” (1995) by Keith Mulligan, pages 86 & 87, the author was himself a 16 SQDN P40 pilot who knew Lynn Williams and took part in the action that day; “The Blue Arena” (1986) by SQDN LDR Bob Spurdle DFC & bar, Page 149; and “Wings over the Pacific, The RNZAF in the Pacific Air War” by Alex Horn (1992). Pages 65 & 66.


           This P-40M is the fourth release of Hasegawa’s line of 1/32 P40s.  As with the others, it is a scale-up of the excellent 1/48 kits.  The kit differs from the earlier P-40N by having the parts for the earlier canopy, while utilizing the longer tail part included with the P-40N.  Decals provide markings for the famous Kittyhawk III “Wairarapa Wildcat” flown by RNZAF Flight Lt. Geoff Fisken, the top-scoring Commonwealth ace of the Pacific Theater, and a P-40M of the 44th fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group; both of these are aircraft used in combat in the Solomons campaign.


          These kits are the essence of simplicity.  I started by painting all the interior parts for the fuselage with Xtracrylix Interior Green.  While that was drying, I attached the left and right rear fuselage parts to the respective forward fuselage parts, as well as the exhaust panels. I then applied a thick coat of Tamiya’s “Mr. Surfacer” to the fuselage joint.  When that was dry, I sanded it smooth and rescribed the panel lines and the rivet detail.  I also attached the horizontal stabilizers and rudder.

           I assembled the interior parts for the radiator, and then assembled the fuselage, including the aft canopy parts.  I applied Tamiya “Mr. Surfacer” to the centerline seam and to the seam around the rear canopy glass, which were then sanded until the seams disappeared and then rescribed.

           I then proceeded to assemble the wing.  The wheel wells were positioned and the wing upper halves and lower wing glued. I attached the guns and applied Tamiya “Mr. Surfacer” to those joints.

           While the fuselage and wing sub-assemblies were setting up, I assembled the cockpit.  I painted the various detail parts and used the kit-supplied decal for the instrument panel, but spiffed-up the overall look by use of the excellent Eduard photoetch seat belts.  The cockpit as supplied looks good enough, though there is a resin cockpit available now; for me, all that is needed is the seat belts.  My expert on all things Kiwi, Dave Lochead, pointed out to me that the RNZAF “Kittyhawks” were really USAAF P-40Ms until they were supplied to the RNZAF, and that they thus used American seat belts, not the RAF Sutton harness.

           I inserted the cockpit assembly, then attached the wing to the fuselage.  By using some sprue cut as braces and inserted fore and aft of the cockpit tub to widen the fuselage just a bit, I was able to get the upper wing/fuselage join done without using any filler.

          Once all was set up, I sanded all the seams smooth and then rescribed panel lines as necessary.


           Rather than use the decal ID stripes, I painted the area with Tamiya “Flat White,” then masked those off.  I painted the model overall Olive Drab on the upper surfaces and Neutral Grey on the lower surfaces after pre-shading the model along the panel lines. I mixed some Tamiya “Olive Drab” with Tamiya “Khaki Drab” and “Olive Green” to get the “green base” Olive Draft the USAAF used until 1943.  The paint was then progressively lightened with Tamiya “Khaki Light”, “Sky Grey” and “Flat White” in succeeding passes over the model to get the subtle sun-fading that is associated with aircraft in the South Pacific.  In the case of this particular airplane, which had not been long in the Solomons at the time of its loss, this fading was not done as obviously as for other aircraft subject to this weathering for a longer period.  This may not be that apparent in the photos, but it is there very subtly in person.  The result looked very close to the photos of the actual airplane that Hugh Thomas pointed me to.  I finished off by painting the spinner white.  When all was dry, the stripes were unmasked and the model was given two coats of Xtracrylix Gloss varnish.

           The decals provide the personal insignia for “Wairarapa Wildcat” and the RNZAF national markings.  I used the national markings and the serial number minus the last digit, which I replaced with a “6" from an Xtradecal sheet, from which I also go the “30" for the nose.  Like the other RNZAF P-40s, this airplane did not have personal markings.

          I gave the model several coats of Xtracrylix Flat varnish, then ‘dinged” it lightly with Tamiya Aluminum - photos of the airplanes of 16 Squadron show they were not all that worn at the time of this loss.  I used Tamiya “Smoke” for the exhaust and oil stains. 

           I finished off by attaching the landing gear and prop, and setting the canopy in the open position.


          I am quite happy that this model will soon be sitting in the home of Hugh Thomas, Lyn Williams’ grand nephew, who commissioned this project to memorialize his ancestor, a man representative of those who answered the call even when they didn’t have to, and whose sacrifice created the world we have grown up in. 

          Past that, it’s a Hasegawa P-40 - what’s not to like?  The kit is no longer in production, but can be found from dealers on eBay for prices no more inflated than what Hasegawa is charging now.  These kits are simple enough in execution and so well-designed that it is virtually impossible not to get everything assembled with proper alignment, so that any modeler can attempt a project with it with the prospect of having a nice model as a result.  The kit markings are excellent and provide an opportunity to do an airplane that has not been “done to death” by the decal manufacturers, whichever markings option is chosen.  The result is a model that is a “big canvas” for a fun project.  Highly recommended.

Tom Cleaver

May 2013

Thanks to Hugh Thomas for the review kit.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page